‘Yes’ supporters leave ‘No’ unions or say: stop giving our cash to Labour Party

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HUNDREDS of Yes supporters are either quitting their trade union or refusing to pay into its political fund due to some of the cash ending up with Labour.

'Yes' supporters leave 'No' unions or say stop giving our cash to Labour Party

Members of unions affiliated to Labour are also considering their position in light of the bodies supporting a No vote in the independence referendum.

Yes Scotland and Better Together made the wooing of trades unionists a key part of their campaigns in last month’s vote. However, the spotlight fell on the way some of them reached their decision over who to back.

The biggest Labour affiliates such as Unite and Unison declined to endorse either outcome, while the GMB, the Communication Workers Union and Usdaw all came out for a No.

The Sunday Herald has learned that a growing number of Yes voters are rethinking their union ties.

Some members have left, while others have stopped paying into the so-called political fund.

Labour affiliates ask whether members would like to pay into the fund, but a portion of the money ends up in party coffers. If trades unionists agree to pay the levy, there is no way of stopping part of it going to Labour.

Unite’s ruling Scottish committee unanimously agreed against making a recommendation on the referendum, but some members are still unhappy about the union’s Labour link.

Since September 18’s poll, 129 Scottish members have exercised their right to exempt themselves from paying into the political fund.

The GMB was also criticised for the consultation it carried out ahead of backing a No vote.

Jim Moody, a pro-Yes shop steward for GMB at Scottish Borders Council, said many of his colleagues had stopped paying the levy. “The main problem is the political fund,” he said. “Folk want to be in the union, but they don’t want to pay into a fund if some of it goes to Labour. I’m hearing it is hundreds of members in the GMB.”

Members of Usdaw, the union for shop workers, are also said to be unhappy. One week before polling day, they received a message from general secretary John Hannett which read: “I suggest that if you don’t know – then you should vote NO.”

A union source said “hundreds” of Scottish members had either left Usdaw or filled out exemption forms as a result of Hannett’s email or the earlier decision to back a No vote.

An insider at the CWU said “dozens” of members in the Lothian area had requested exemption documentation.

The Collins Review, which Labour commissioned after last year’s candidate selection debacle in Falkirk, proposed that members of affiliated unions should be able to opt-in to the payment that goes to the party.

This reform, which will effectively give individuals the option of paying into the fund while opting out of affiliating to Labour, is expected to be implemented early next year.

Unison, Scotland’s biggest union, already gives its members a choice of paying into a “general political fund”, a Labour-linked pot, neither, or both.

One union insider said some members had switched to the general fund after the referendum, but another source dismissed the numbers as a “trickle”.

A Unite spokesman said the 129 opt-outs amounted to less than 1% of its membership.

A GMB spokesman said he did not have figures for the political fund exemptions, but added: “Every month for GMB Scotland there is a turnover of members due to changing jobs, retirements and redundancies. For the last two years, numbers in and numbers out each month have balanced.”

Christina McKelvie, convener of the SNP Parliamentary Trade Union Group, said: “No wonder trades union members are removing their dues from political funds that are still feeding Labour. Under Johann Lamont Labour has been tied to Tories over the past two years in the most negative campaign in Scottish political history.”

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